Mohan Bhagwat’s views on removing caste and religion from politics are welcome | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Mohan Bhagwat’s views on removing caste and religion from politics are welcome

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat should also make it clear that every Indian has the right to chose whom to marry, what to eat, what to read and view, and when to dissent

editorials Updated: Jan 28, 2018 16:53 IST
Mohan Bhagwat, chief of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, addresses a rally at the veterinary college playground, Guwahati, January 21, 2018
Mohan Bhagwat, chief of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, addresses a rally at the veterinary college playground, Guwahati, January 21, 2018(AFP)

The founder of the RSS, Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, and its second and most powerful sarsangchalak, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, were firmly in favour of building a society based on religion and caste. But RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat seems to feel differently.

At a recent meeting, he lamented that vote bank politics will continue to the detriment of society as long as people vote on caste and religious lines. Coming from the leader of an avowed Hindu organisation, this is a welcome thought. Mr Bhagwat said that everyone is free to practise his or her religion of choice, again in contrast to many in the RSS who feel that minorities are about to either overrun India numerically or are actively trying to convert Hindus through marriage or inducements.

Mr Bhagwat has on several earlier occasions spoken of the need for tolerance and inclusion, signalling that he is not as hidebound as some of his predecessors. But the challenge for the RSS in general, and Mr Bhagwat in particular, is to rein in the fringe Right-wing groups which seem to draw strength and legitimacy from the RSS.

While the RSS may say that it has nothing to do with organisations like the VHP, Bajrang Dal and Karni Sena, the latter clearly consider themselves close affiliates of the organisation. Mr Bhagwat feels that it is this excessive emphasis on caste and religion that has impeded the prime minister’s development agenda, and indeed he is not off the mark.

It falls to him now to aggressively speak out against the attacks on the Dalits and minorities and push his followers to work for a more inclusive and tolerant India. Just how intolerant people have become was seen from the recent violence over a film on a fictitious queen. The depredations of the gau rakshaks, who are nothing more than thugs engaged in extortion and violence under the guise of religion, and those of the self-styled moral brigade against young couples are well documented now.

Like religion, Mr Bhagwat should make it clear that every Indian has the right to chose whom to marry, what to eat, what to read and view, and when to dissent. This is the bedrock of democracy and Mr Bhagwat can use his considerable influence over his flock to make them a catalyst for positive change.

The RSS exerts an influence on the ruling party at the Centre and many states and Mr Bhagwat can also nudge them towards putting development at the centre again. The RSS has long held a homogenous view of India according to which everyone has to fall in line with the wishes of the majority. Caste and religion are indeed a drag on our politics. If Mr Bhagwat can address both at least within the BJP, he will have done the nation a signal service at a time when it is riven by so many fault lines. It will also show how far he has come from the vision of the RSS’ founding father Hedgewar.